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How To: Build & Maintain Business Relationships

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As an ethical leader, building and maintaining a network of personal and professional relationships is considered one of the most important components to growing a business. A couple professionals come to mind when I think about invaluable advice I’ve received to better myself professionally. These tips, such as how to become more organized and professional in my business relationships, have only come to fruition because of the prior relationships I built with these individuals.

During 2011, in the middle of the spring semester of my senior year at The University of Alabama, my uncle was traveling through town on his way to an important sales call in Mississippi. I took this opportunity to get together with him to discuss my career and professional plans because he is an experienced businessman who built a successful business from scratch.

After eating lunch together, we began to discuss my future. Many thoughts were on my mind as I faced final exams and graduation in the coming months. After talking about family and sports, I switched the conversation by asking him, "How have you been so effective at sales and growing your business?" He held up his phone and pointed to it. He replied, "Every contact in my phone has a section for notes. When I meet someone, I quickly type out details from our conversation such as a daughter’s name, birthday dates and any other information I find relevant at the time."

He continued by saying, "Remembering someone’s name and title, at the very least, is more than what most people do. Even if I have not gathered their phone number yet, I will open a new contact with their name and notes. This is part of the reason I am able to keep so many details straight about my customers."

That very day, I started a similar habit of keeping up with the details while networking. With the technology available to me at that time, I had no excuses to not keep up with the details of the people I came in contact with. This habit I learned from my uncle, has allowed me to maintain information that might be useful with business contacts in the future.

I recently read a similar story about an accountant named Ned McCrory who also has a great system in place that allows him to easily maintain information about his clients and potential clients. In the past, Ned had difficulty maintaining contact information from potential clients he golfed with. He found it difficult to remember the names and faces of people he played with weeks and months after the round of golf. The accountant eventually solved this dilemma by putting the information he had gathered into an Excel spreadsheet. Not only does he make sure to include his score and the location of where the golf outing was played, he also includes names, titles and contact information of everyone he played with.

He said not only does this strategy help him remember details about business contacts, it is also helpful to anyone he’s played with. For instance, he receives calls from a past players who want to connect with other individuals he has played golf with. He claims this spreadsheet has often given him a substantial advantage over his competitors when it comes to connecting with clients and building his business.

After thinking about the strategies my uncle and the accountant use to keep track of their contacts, I believe it is critical to build and use better information systems that allow for effective networking and growing professional relationships.

Moving forward, it would be wise to develop habits that allowed you to improve your relationship-building skills and professional image.

George Reynolds
Student Programs & Development Specialist, NASBA Center for the Public Trust (CPT)